stands just 4 feet 8 1/2 inches tall, a size that has
allowed larger coworkers to playfully scoop her up at
the office and make remarks about her height. Some
have even patted her on the head.
considering complaints such as hers as they review a bill
that would make Massachusetts just the second state to ban
discrimination based on height or weight.
authority will very easily make comments about height that
they wouldn't make about race or gender,'' said Frankel, an
author who lives in Marblehead.
understands the frustration. She says overweight people
routinely are discriminated against because of their size.
''It's not fair.
No matter what you think of fat people, they deserve to
be treated like human beings,'' said Toombs, 59, a piano
teacher who weighs 300 pounds and is on the board of
the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.
The proposed law
does not define "short" or "fat." It would apply
mainly to the workplace but also to landlord-tenant
relationships and real estate transactions.
Most states have
laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion,
age, gender, and disability. A handful offer protection for
gays and lesbians. But only Michigan includes weight
and height in its antidiscrimination law.
The District of
Columbia also bans discrimination based on appearance,
and San Francisco and Santa Cruz, Calif., prohibit weight
and height discrimination.
Rushing, a Boston Democrat who is sponsoring the
Massachusetts bill, said the issue is a question of
''This is one of
the last physical aspects of people that you can
acceptably laugh about,'' said Rushing, who is black, slim,
and of average height. ''You can be a shock jock on
the radio and talk about fat people for a solid week,
and no one would ever think of having you lose your
job. It's still acceptable.''
analyst Todd Domke is concerned that lawmakers will scare
off businesses if they expand protections to include
short and overweight workers. ''We might as well add
colorblind, left-handed, allergic-to-cashews, and get
it over with,'' Domke said.
state law people claiming discrimination in the workplace
or for housing must prove in court that their weight problem
is a disability. But Massachusetts courts usually
reject such arguments.
''People can lose
weight,'' said David Yas, publisher of Massachusetts
Lawyers Weekly. ''As that line of argument
goes, why receive special treatment? There is some of that
attitude in the courts, that this should not rise to the
level of race and gender, the rights of which are so
important to protect.''
a similar bill 10 years ago, but he's more confident of
passage now because of an increased awareness of the issues.
He expects a hearing this fall.
and shorter people get promoted less. Shorter people make
less than their taller counterparts,'' said Frankel, who
published a memoir last fall titled Beyond Measure.
Toombs does not
buy the argument she can simply diet and lose weight.
''I spent 25
years of my life trying to get thin,'' she said. ''All I
ever got was fatter, and I felt like a failure. I thought it
was my fault, and it wasn't. People come in different
sizes--they always have, and they always will. I
haven't robbed a bank. I work with children. I'm doing
good in the world.'' (AP)